Kevin O’Brien shares his confessions as an autism dad in today’s post…something he was reticent to do until he became a contributor to a new book, Life on the Spectrum, and discovered the importance and worth of the work he’s been given to do.
Confessions of an Autism Dad
Can I be honest for a moment? For over a decade, I have resisted being an autism dad. I have written a few pieces about having a son with autism, but I have done so reluctantly. Really reluctantly.
There are lots of reasons. Privacy–mine and my son’s. Concern that I have no idea what I’m talking about. But to be honest–brass tacks, bottom line, no more obfuscating–the resistance is about me. Because as soon as I take that step my identity changes. My goals, my interests, and yes, my dreams change. To name a thing is to make it real.
I have a master’s degree in theology and wrote my master’s thesis on Generation X and Truth. Won an award for it. I dream of being a writer when I grow up. But I want to write about faith and culture. About theology and the Church. About things that matter.
My dream. How many time did I say “I” in the previous paragraphs? 12? (not including “mine”, “me” and “my”) That’s the problem. Too much I, me, my, mine. Not enough recognition of the fact that “I” am not the center. God is. Everything I claim to believe says so. It is he who calls me to himself, who crafts me to his use and his purpose. Who seeks my ultimate good even when I cannot see it.
This is the story of Scripture. It practically drips off of every page. God pursues his people. Relentlessly. He seeks their good at all times in all places and all situations, even when–especially when–they resist him.
Pick a person, pick a time, pick a place.
Adam, Moses, David, Jeremiah, John.
Eve and Tamar and Rahab and Ruth and Abigail and Gomer and Mary.
So many others whose names we forget and the details of whose stories are fuzzy. God pursues. God shapes and molds and takes the good and the bad, the victories and the defeats, the moments of righteousness and yes even the sins to bring us to himself. There is absolutely nothing that God cannot redeem. For his glory and our good.
Even my son’s autism.
Even my own arrogant dreams.
A few years ago, I was invited to be a part of a book by the parents of autistic kids. It took far longer to complete than we expected. Bumps along the road and unanticipated detours but Life on the Spectrum is now a real book. It speaks to the messy realities of parenting a child with autism through the eyes of faith. It’s also about expectations and asking why. It’s about parties and comparisons and family and church and . . . life. But mostly, it’s about seeing God at work in and through those things.
Because there is nothing that God cannot redeem. There is nothing that God cannot redeem. Over and over again in Scripture we see that God is a god who cares for those who cannot care for themselves.
The widow and the orphan.
The alien and the exile.
The poor and the disabled.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:34-40, NLT
God cares and so should we. My son has shown me firsthand how God cares for those who cannot care for themselves. How God uses us to do so. How in so doing we become more and more like him and he surprises us in astounding ways. I have delayed and hemmed and hawed, not using my gift because I wanted to write something more important, because I second guessed myself and what I had been given. Yet in the middle of that ,something became increasingly clear. In and through my son’s autism I have the opportunity to speak to serious issues of faith and culture and theology and the church. My dream looks decidedly different than what I expected or planned, but it turned out not to be so different.
Kevin O’Brien is a husband, father, ordained minister, writer and volunteer theologian. He holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and has done graduate work at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. He is currently the study Bible and reference brand manager at Tyndale House Publishers where he has helped to develop several Bibles and has written articles which have appeared in The Way, the iShine Bible, and the Illustrated Study Bible. He is one of the authors of the recently released Life on the Spectrum. Kevin lives in the far western suburbs of Chicago with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat. He would prefer to spend his time reading, writing, woodworking and watching the Chicago Blackhawks.
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